PVComplete has always had a global perspective.
I was raised by immigrants- a Chilean father and Austrian mother. My co-founder Daniel Sherwood is a Canadian who came to California 17 years ago to work in the solar industry. Today solar project designers and sales professionals in 44 countries use PVComplete software to engineer better systems and save time.
Now we’re excited to announce that PVComplete is a multinational company. In January, we opened an office in Porto, a city of 1.9 million people on Portugal’s sunny Iberian Peninsula. A Series A investment led by EDP Ventures in Portugal has enabled PVComplete to launch the office in Porto where our technical and sales team will lead product and business development for the European market.
It’s unusual for an investor to start out as a customer, but that’s how our relationship with EDP, an electric service provider with operations in Portugal, Spain and Brazil, got started. EDP Renewables, a utility-owned project developer and system operator, is a user of PVComplete to design utility-scale projects. Last year, when PVComplete attended Intersolar Europe as an exhibitor, our meetings with EDP Renewables, the solar farm project developers led into introductions to the venture capital investment group within EDP. Alignment in opportunity within PVComplete and EDP Ventures paved the way for Series A funding and our arrival in Portugal.
Soft landing in Portugal
In January, I visited EDP at its new office in the hip, recently transformed 24 de Julho neighborhood on the Lisbon waterfront. Later I traveled three hours north to Porto, home of Portugal’s famous fortified wine Port, where PVComplete has set up our European office at UPTEC, a science and technology park at the University of Porto. I enjoyed cycling along the Douro river and listened to Fado, the soul of Portuguese folk music.
In some ways, it’s relatively easy for someone from the US to set up a business in Portugal. Language is not a huge barrier, because business people in Portugal are most often proficient in English. Portugal has a highly educated population and a low cost of living. You can get a nice meal and a glass of wine for 14 euros. That’s less than $16. You can rent a two-bedroom apartment in Porto for 600 euros (about $680). In the San Francisco Bay Area, where PVComplete is based, that amount of money might get you a broom closet.
In terms of bureaucracy, however, we encountered startup challenges that could make it difficult to open a business overseas. In the US, you can register a business in Delaware for next to nothing, or in California, the registry is $800 per year. In Portugal, a new shareholder corporation must have 50,000 euros in share capital, and it must retain a law firm and a certified public account. These requirements add significant time and cost to the process of starting a business. I had an appreciation for the first time on how the US tax and corporate law promote innovation by making red tape secondary to the inspiration to get a business started.
When entering a new territory, it’s wise to have local friends to welcome you. Support from EDP Ventures ensured a soft landing for PVComplete. In addition to providing me with office space in Lisbon, EDP Ventures facilitated our acceptance into the UPTEC business incubator. I got referrals on the best recruiters, legal and accounting services. The warm introductions to prospective clients and executives in other portfolio companies, helping build our network in Portugal and navigate our way through business compliance.
After two weeks, in weather that paralleled my California life under architecture that was beyond comparison, I returned home to Northern California, where PVComplete continues product development for customers all around the world. Meanwhile, we are assembling the team in Porto, where I will return in late spring to support new employee on-boarding and immerse myself once more in the history, culture and cuisine of the first global empire that the world has known.
posted by: Claudia Eyzaguirre, PVComplete Co-founder